A good friend of mine called me this morning from work.
I expected the phone call to concern our Memphis in May plans for tonight, which were on hold because of the annual precipitation slog-fest.
If you live in Memphis, or attend Memphis in May yearly, you know exactly what I mean. It literally rains every year during the first weekend in May. It's like clockwork.
But I digress; the telephone call had absolutely nothing to do with Musicfest. Instead, my buddy pleasantly surprised me.
I deem it a pleasant surprise because this particular friend of mine cannot be bothered with sports. It's not that he minds watching a good basketball game; he just doesn't quite appreciate the whole sports scene as much as I do.
Again, I digress. I understood the purpose of his call. In my particular circle of friends, I am renowned as the sports guru. If my friends need their NCAA Tournament Bracket filled out, I'm the one to call. If there's a bet at work, on a (hmm) certain Game 7, I'm their guy.
I really cherish these kinds of moments, because other than my extensive knowledge of sports statistics and chances, I'm practically useless.
So this was my time to shine! Keep in mind, I don't get many opportunities to bask in the limelight, so I knew that his simple inquiry was much more than that.
I fumbled through my cerebrum and pons and some chambers of my brain that probably haven't been utilized in years looking for a logical and safe answer.
Bulls....Celtics....Celtics at home....Game 7....Ahh, wait...No KG....But Paul Pierce....But Derrick Rose....But Ray Allen....Ahh, he's gotta be tired....But Ben Gordon....On one leg....But no KG.....
In the midst of my scavenger hunt, I came to a sweet realization: this is what we, as sports fans, live and die for.
These kinds of series don't come around often. They simply don't. But when they do, you'd better pay attention. And you'd better cherish these kinds of series, because it could be another decade, or another lifetime even, before another one like it comes around.
"You still there, John?"
I was definitely there. It was early in the morning, but my brain was clicking on all cylinders.
I thought about Game 1, in Boston. I remember going into that game thinking that the Bulls didn't have a tax's chance at the Boston Tea Party. Under Doc Rivers, the Celtics were so responsive to adversity. They handled every potentially treacherous situation exceptionally and professionally.
And in Game 1, the defending champions had an answer for every single question that the Bulls were throwing their way.
Just one problem: Derrick Rose seemingly slipped from their scouting report.
I remember thinking after that game, "Wow! Maybe the Celtics really are rattled."
But when it looked as if the whole Celtics team was shook, including the impeccable Paul Pierce, Ray Allen reminded the Bulls that it wasn't a party until Ray Allen hits an impossible three over your tallest player to break the tie with two seconds left in the game.
I remember thinking after that game, "Wow! Maybe the Celtics really aren't rattled."
And then, the whole NBA fan-base collectively boarded a plane to Chicago.
Were there even any other playoff games going on? I can't remember.
I was disappointed by the outcome of Game 3. Derrick Rose was neutralized, Ben Gordon wasn't hitting 360-degree granny shots, and Paul Pierce remembered that he played for the defending champion Boston Celtics, not the Chris Wallace Celtics. And the champs took it, 107-86.
I conceded the series after this blowout. You did, too. Don't lie.
The Bulls were just too green. They got lucky, caught a distracted Celtics team in Game 1, and escaped with a narrow victory.
Then the Baby Bulls came home and laid an egg. It made perfect sense. Game 1 was a fluke. They weren't going to so much as smell another victory.
....whoever said that the NBA wasn't suspenseful?
The Bulls must have doused the Celtics' locker room chairs with red paint, because they came out charging.
Ben Gordon put on a show for the ages. Derrick Rose made everyone forget that he was a rookie.
It took two OTs, but the Bulls speared the Celtic matadors and the series was headed back to Boston 2-2.
At this point, the cynic in me is beginning to show itself.
David Stern, in a desperate attempt to restore national interest in the Association, is orchestrating this whole thing. The Bulls take Game 1 in OT, the Celtics take Game 2 with a 3-pointer by Ray Allen over the infinitely long Joakim Noah, the Celtics take Game 3 in a rout, and then the Bulls respond by winning in double-overtime?
Are you kidding me? Is Tim Donaghy officiating?
(All of the preceding thoughts were racing through my mind whilst I remained on the phone with my good friend. I'm a fast thinker.)
Sooner or later, I remember thinking, this thing was going to come to a head. There was absolutely no way that these two teams could maintain the level of intensity that they had been playing with. Someone was going to cave.
And heading into the fourth quarter of Game 5, it looked like that "someone" was going to be the defending champions.
Leave it to the "young-and-hungry" Chicago Bulls to obtain an unfathomable sense of complacency midway into the fourth!
Surprise, surprise, America. Game 5 of the Bulls-Celtics series needed extra innings.
Had it not have been for Brad Miller uncharacteristically missing two free throws at the end of the first OT, the likelihood of Game 5 going to double-overtime was incredibly high. The Celtics escaped with a 106-104 victory and the series score was 3-2.
Back to Chicago!
Doc Rivers said it best.
"Maybe we just like it here. The pizza's good."
America likes it in Chicago, too. Because that means that this series isn't dead. It's not over.
At this point, I'm thinking that Chicago has absolutely nothing left. They've literally played their hearts out. I think Derrick Rose left his heart in the locker room after Game 4.
I also think that he had it surgically reimbursed, because in Game 6, Mr. Rose continued to astonish. So did the Bulls, and so did the Celtics.
Witnessing the spectacle of Game 6 made ME tired. I was practically wiping my brow watching those guys. At one point, I was so winded that (and you'll forgive me) I had to ask my friend's girlfriend, who had just recently given birth, to fix me a glass of tea.
That tea went down smoothly and sweetly, and a large part of that was due to the fact that this series, defying all odds, was going to SEVEN games! It took three -- THREE!! -- overtimes, but the Bulls completed the unthinkable, 128-127.
Who would've thunk it? Seven overtimes equals seven games.
Pretty reasonable equation.
Then why was it so hard for me to designate a true winner?
I don't root for either of these teams. I'm not geographically close to either of them. I'm as unbiased as can be when it comes to these two teams.
What made it so hard?
Because I don't want there to be a winner!
I want this series to last forever. I don't want it to ever end. I know, it sounds Disney-esque, but that's really how I feel.
These two teams should be congratulated. They are giving everything they've got. (I mean, come on, Brian Scalabrine scored a few times in Game 6!)
Each and every game played back in my head. The Rondo foul to Brad Miller, the Ray Allen shot over Joakim Noah, the incredible Ben Gordon shot to tie it at 110 in Game 4, the sissy-fied altercation between Rondo and Hinrich that prompted a classic quote from the ever-candid Charles Barkley:
"Now what we have here is two kids who don't know how to fight. If Hinrich wanted to get at him, he could've. It's crap. It's crap!"
My friend remained patiently on the line. While this article took an hour-plus to write, the conversation probably only lasted all of two minutes.
I sifted through all the plays, all the fouls, all the conjecture, all the ESPN predictions, and came to a conclusion.
I notified my friend of my decision, and in a sense, that was that.
A subtle "Aiiight!" was all I got.
For all the pure agony that he put me through! I was teetering like I was a juror in the OJ Simpson trial, and all I got was an "Aiiight!"
Oh, well. I'm not going to publicly state my pick out of respect for the basis of this entire article, but I hope for my credibility's sake (and my life) that I was right.
Otherwise, I'm practically useless.
But so is a winner in this series, because for all of the excitement, suspense, and enjoyment that these two teams have provided us, nobody's going to care who won (except the respective team's fans, of course). I'll just always remember the talent and heart both teams exhibited during the process.
This series has restored my love and faith in the NBA, and as far as whatever happens tonight between the Bulls-Celtics and their series finale?